Breaking down barriers: piloting iPads in the classroom

Tablets have developed into a powerful piece of technology. Nowadays they’re equipped with plenty of processing power, storage space and a seemingly limitless number of apps available to download free or at low-cost. In recent years they have also made their way into schools, led by teachers of primary and secondary-aged students, where students bring their own device or receive a tablet of their own. But, it’s trickier in a technical sense to provide tablets to share for different classes.

There is a steadily growing collection of research and shared experience on the use of tablets in learning and teaching, covering everything from which apps to choose through to the administrative detail of deploying them in your school. On the practical side, a tablet can be especially appealing to learners who are less confident with technology. Its accessibility and hands-on interface can provide a much less intimidating experience for a learner who struggles with software and keyboard skills, and apps offer a seamless way to get to lots of different, interactive learning activities.

Experimenting in the English classroom

With all this in mind, a handful of passionate teaching staff in our Navitas English Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) worked together with Navitas Learning & Teaching staff to turn an ambitious idea into reality. Led by Teaching Technology Advisor Sue Valdeck, they ran a pilot project to introduce iPads into an adult English language classroom faced with significant learning and teaching hurdles.

The demographics of the class included a broad range of ages and varying educational experience, including pre-literate learners with no reading or writing ability in any language and no formal education.

The project was designed to understand the impact of tablets on:

  • Learner engagement in the classroom;
  • Attendance and retention, and
  • Achievement of learning outcomes

Using a stripped-back project management methodology, Sue worked with her Learning & Teaching colleagues and the IT team to get a robust system aligned with learning outcomes into the classroom in time for the next term.

The results are in!

We’ll hear more from Sue about what happened next, but for now let’s flip the script and look at the project outcomes. In just a few months, the iPad pilot managed to achieve:

  • Improved levels of engagement in students using iPads in the classroom;
  • Improved efficiency and effectiveness of students’ achievement of learning outcomes;
  • Improved student retention rates compared to the previous term.

The project also achieved some outcomes that weren’t necessarily key objectives when the pilot began:

  • Facilitated students practicing useful employability skills relating to technology;
  • Improved teacher confidence in using iPads and integrating technology-based activities into their regular teaching activities.

Where a teacher may have avoided technology due to past experiences with bulky and slow laptops or unsuitable programs, for example, this pilot generated renewed enthusiasm by showing that a difference approach with technology really can have an impact on learning outcomes, retention and student engagement, even among the least confident students.

Clearly there’s much more to share on this and we’ll hear more from others involved in upcoming posts here. If this is an area you’re interested in, you can view a recording of a presentation by Sue and some Learning & Teaching colleagues on our ‘Play Again’ page or contact Sue direct for more information: